Turn Prison Into Your University

August 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

In thinking of the different ways that prisoners can do revolutionary work while locked up, I recalled some experience that I wanted to share.

I wasn’t good in school when I was young but I developed my ability to read, write, and work with ideas while in prison, turned a good out of a bad some might say, or wrenched some freedom out of necessity, as communists would say. Arbitrary lockdowns compelled me to pick up books and read ’em; shit I had never even thought of doing in any other circumstances and I wanted others to do the same. I collected books from any place that sent free books to prisoners, there were many but I have to highly recommend, better yet insist, that people write to the Prisoner’s Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) to get the best and most important literature you can get your hands on in and out of prison. This is where you can get the works of BA, which concentrate the most advanced understanding, the most thoroughly scientific method and approach, for making a revolution that can lead to the emancipation of all of humanity.

In any case, I collected about a hundred books after a few years that I didn’t want just sitting on my shelf, or on someone else’s shelf, collecting dust. I saw the need to make those books readily available to all the prisoners in my block and also find a way to encourage everyone to do some reading. I had plenty of time to kill, so I made a list of every book in my cell and wrote a brief description of each one after listing the title and author. I had a typewriter so I decided to make a pamphlet. This took some work but it was worth it. I folded 8½" x 11" blank paper in half, figured out margins, line spacing, and how much text I could fit on each side. I then had a sense of page numbers and how many blank sheets I would need total. I wrote a small two-paragraph intro to go on page 1 that encouraged everyone regardless of race or nationality to get at me to “check out” any of the books or periodicals that were on the list. In the front I simply typed in all bolded caps on the center of the page: TURN PRISON INTO YOUR UNIVERSITY.

I had someone with access to a copy machine run some copies and I had copies going around touching every cell in every section of the block. Requests for books started coming in, prisoners who also wanted to share their books in the same way listed the books they had on sheets of paper and placed them inside the pamphlets as they went around. Others donated books to “the library” and it quickly became a collective thing. After some additional struggle and encouragement coming from me, a few prisoners who didn’t do much reading were inspired to read and asked me to send something that I myself could recommend. (I soon realized that would need more than one copy of BAsics.) Away With ALL Gods! was a particular hit when I added it to the list. About 10 prisoners had read that one copy before I paroled. People who read it or were reading it would be discussing it on the yard; then someone would walk by and overhear their conversation and wanted to be next in line to read the book. I had to make a list of the people who wanted to read it and the order in which they had asked. I don’t know if every prisoner who wanted to read that book got to do so. Every time I scratched a name off, I had to add another one to the list.

The books on the list covered a whole range of subjects: philosophy, science, psychology, math, law, history, and of course, some communist, anarchist, and revisionist (fake revolutionary masquerading as communism) books as well. I became somewhat of a magnet to anyone wanting to have political discussions. I was just starting getting into BA and all the back and forth with people was helpful in getting clearer on what I was learning. I especially enjoyed talking with those who were influenced by some of the revisionist literature that they had checked out. “Who’s actually being idealist while talking about materialism? Who’s talking up dialectics without being dialectical?” Since then I’ve come to more deeply understand how much that actually matters. Even though you spend most of your time locked in a concrete box, it matters tremendously for humanity what outlook and method you take up and fight for. It wasn’t long before I found myself promoting the leadership of BA and Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).

There is plenty of fighting the power that has to be done in prison. I’m sure every prisoner reading this would agree that there is no shortage of outrages from the guards and the administration that constantly have to be taken on. For prisoners who are fed up with having to deal with bullshit, there is the constant search for the ways in which resistance can be taken to a higher level, but then there is the need to go deeper in understanding what we’re up against, how are we actually going to change things, should we aim for better dungeon conditions or should we look beyond prison walls and aim immensely higher? This is where BA and the new synthesis of communism have to come in. Don’t think that it doesn’t matter what people are reading as long as they’re reading. What urgently needs to happen is for people to get deep into BA and take up the scientific method and approach that he has developed. The more people do that, not only will we learn more from reading broadly, but the forces and movement for an actual revolution to sweep this whole goddamn system off the face of the Earth will grow bigger and stronger.

There is an urgent need for this new synthesis to be taken up, broadly, in this society and in the world as a whole: everywhere people are questioning why things are the way they are, and whether a different world is possible; everywhere people are talking about “revolution” but have no real understanding of what revolution means, no scientific approach to analyzing and dealing with what they are up against and what needs to be done; everywhere people are rising up in rebellion but are hemmed in, let down and left to the mercy of murderous oppressors, or misled onto paths which only reinforce, often with barbaric brutality, the enslaving chains of tradition; everywhere people need a way out of their desperate conditions, but do not see the source of their suffering and the path forward out of the darkness.



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